By Evan Ratke
It is almost too easy to argue that Bishop Bob Humphrey is exactly where he is supposed to be. Elected Bishop of the Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 2017, the scope of his responsibilities is clear just by the words in that title. One such responsibility of Bishop Humphrey’s involves serving on the Board of Directors for enCircle. As per enCircle’s bylaws, the Bishop of the Virginia Synod serves on the Board by virtue of the office. But Bishop Humphrey’s passion for enCircle’s efforts reaches far and above what’s required by the organization’s bylaws.
“I have served on the Board of enCircle longer than any other organization in the Synod,” Bishop Humphrey says, “not just because of my role in the Synod, but because I deeply believe in the mission of this organization.”
Ordained in 1981, Bishop Humphrey has spent the entirety of his service with the ELCA as a parish pastor in Virginia, leading flocks of increasing size.
“I served in a small, medium, and larger congregation before I was elected Bishop in 2017,” Bishop Humphrey recounts.
Bishop Humphrey’s interests and service do not begin and end inside the walls of the church, however. Double majoring in history and political science as an undergrad, attending graduate studies at the University of Virginia, and working as a Pastoral Counselor in Waynesboro in the 1980s, Bishop Humphrey has made a life out of finding different means of helping others. Included in those is extensive experience on the Board of enCircle, experience that well predates his current role as Bishop.
“I’ve served on the Board twice as a parish pastor, from 1992 to 1998 and 2005 to 2015. As Bishop, this is my third time with enCircle.”
Working with enCircle for that combined total of 20 years has been a simple decision for Bishop Humphrey.
“What drew me to enCircle was the organization’s connection to the work of the church. It has always been enCircle’s mission to help people who are trying to make their lives better in difficult circumstances. It’s a mission that holds a special place in my heart.”
And it’s not just the mission of the organization, but also the people of enCircle that hold a special place in Bishop Humphrey’s heart.
“What I didn’t know before coming to the Board that first time was the remarkable extent to which enCircle staff members have to go to provide the kinds of skilled care that people need. There are so many members of this team with specific skillsets, talents, and experiences, all working together as they work with governmental and legal agencies, as they work with families, be they foster families or families of origin, or even as they work with just one person. Their commitment only makes those of us on the Board more committed. It’s exciting to be able to watch this organization grow.”
But as both enCircle and Bishop Humphrey’s role in the ELCA continue to grow, one thing that remains the same is the sense of purpose that Humphrey brings with him to enCircle.
“The primary connection I bring to the organization is the Lutheran Church connection. The mission of the congregations crosses over with the mission of enCircle and the areas and people they serve. I want to help maintain that strong connection between the church and the organization to everyone’s benefit.”
Bishop Bob Humphrey lives in Harrisonburg with his wife Barbra. They have a daughter and two grandchildren.